This past week we did a little bedroom juggling so that each of our three boys could have his own room. Two of them had been sharing, not only a room, but many of the books in it. Both are avid readers and book collectors, so you can guess what ensued. Now, if my kids had e-readers, the issue of which books got to rest on which bookshelves (in which room) would have been averted, but my kids don’t have e-readers. Yet.
And I like it that way.
The first thing my youngest said when he scanned his new room was, “Mom, I need more bookshelves. I want my room to look like a library.”
Man, did that get me right in the heart. I too was addicted to reading at their age, and just like them, I keep (and kept) the books I read and love. In fact, one of my favorite things to do is to share my old books with them. As they’ve grown up, we’ve moved from my picture books to the novels I read for English class. There’s something special about the fact that my teen didn’t just read A Midsummer Night’s Dream…he read the very copy I did, complete with my notes in the margins and my maiden name on the inside cover.
My favorite place to go as a kid was the public library, and to this day I love the smell of books. I love that when you walk through a library, it’s so quiet you can almost hear, or at least anticipate, the craziness, adventure, romance, fights and cries from behind all the bindings. Call me nuts, but if you’ve ever read the book or seen the movie Inkheart, you’ll know what I mean. Yes, I’m sentimental about traditional books.
I don’t have an e-reader myself, though I’ve read books on my PC. For the mere sake of convenience, I’ll be getting a reader soon, but I won’t be giving up my print books. I’ll probably even buy print versions of any book I fall in love with in e-form. The thing for me is, I associate reading a book with unwinding…unplugging. You’re not unplugged with an e-reader or pad device in hand. I already feel like my iphone is glued to my palm. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve read and loved many digital only books, it’s just that my heart is still in between paper pages.
So where do e-readers fit in with kids and unplugging?
On one hand, we want to make reading fun for kids, and nowadays most kids will jump at anything with a screen. There are also advantages to e-books, such as kids being able to look up word definitions with the touch of a finger. Of course, they could do that the old fashioned way (yes, mean mom here ;). The catch is, screen time is screen time, and both pediatricians and eye doctors recommend limiting a child’s screen time to no more than two hours a day. If you take the time spent on the computer (educational sites or not), time at the TV (again, educational or entertainment), time on phone screens if your kid is older, time the computer is needed for homework, and then factor in the number of hours we’d love our kids to read…yep, you do the math. We’re waaaay beyond two hours.
It doesn’t matter what a screen is used for or how high tech it is (though low glare helps), all that screen time has an impact on vision (eyestrain and myopia) as well as brain wiring. It’s like the recent ‘teach cursive or not’ arguments. Less things are hand written now, but learning those skills develops a different area of the brain. I think balance is key and in my house, that means holding off a bit longer on e-readers for my kids because 1) I think they’re bombarded enough with screen time and 2) I want to continue nurturing their love of print books. I want to share my old books with them.
I know they’ll fall in love with e-books soon enough.
What do you think?